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People everywhere are absorbed in conversation. [...] Conversation is life, language is the deepest being. We see the patterns repeat, the gestures drive the words. It is the sound and picture of humans communicating. [...] Every conversation is a shared narrative, a thing that surges forward, too dense to allow space for the unspoken, the sterile. The talk is unconditional, the participants drawn in completely.

-- Don DeLillo, The Names (1982)

Calls for Papers | Conference Sessions & Meetings | New and Forthcoming Publications

Calls for Papers

"Riddled with Epiphanies": DeLillo, New York, April 20-21, 2012.
College of Mount Saint Vincent, Riverdale (Bronx) New York.

Deadline for Paper & Panel Proposals: February 28, 2012

Our format will reprise that of the first DeLillo Conference held in 1998.  We will make papers available to participants, presenters will summarize their work, and about half of the panel will be devoted to conversation among all the attendees. 

We also welcome the submission of complete panels.

The Comedic DeLillo

Though Don DeLillo approaches the art of fiction with great seriousness of purpose, it’s also worth considering ways in which his work uses humor toward a variety of narrative ends.  This panel seeks to bring together multiple papers that discuss ways in which DeLillo fruitfully incorporates moments of comedy, characters who perform or consume comedy, and/or moments of intentionally humorous language into his fiction and drama.

Suggested topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Presence of comedians in DeLillo’s fiction: Lenny Bruce and Jackie Gleason in Underworld, Charlie Chaplin in Running Dog
  • Jokes in DeLillo
  • Characters who can be read as comic foils: Murray Jay Siskind in White Noise, Ed Fenig in Great Jones Street
  • Ironic, dark, or gallows humor
  • The satirical DeLillo: the culture of talk-show confessionalism in Valparaiso, mid-century suburbia in Underworld
  • The arch humor of DeLillo’s authorial persona
  • DeLillo and theoretical understandings of humor (Freud, Bergson, et al.)

Please send abstracts (300 to 500 words) and a brief bio to Dr. Matthew Luter:


When it is released in 2012, David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis will be the first Don DeLillo novel to be adapted to the silver screen. As a big-budget film with a world-famous director and a celebrity heartthrob star, Cronenberg’s film will certainly bring a great deal of renewed attention to DeLillo’s novel. This panel invites papers which consider Cosmopolis from any perspective, but especially with regards to the forthcoming adaptation. Topics may include, but are by no means limited to, the following:

  • Discuss the relevancy of Cosmopolis’s story within the context of the 2008 crash and the Occupy protests.
  • Cronenberg and DeLillo have a lot in common as artists. Both are prolific artists who have achieved commercial and critical success by examining the uncanny intersections of horror and aesthetics, of the body and information systems, and of reality and fiction. Consider the thematic points of convergence and divergence between these two artists.
  • Critical opinion has been divided concerning the importance of Cosmopolis in DeLillo’s oeuvre. Cosmopolis combines the humor and language games of DeLillo’s 70s novels with the more elaborate critique of postmodernity articulated in his novels of the 80s and 90s, even as it expresses the preoccupation with entropy and minimalism that characterizes DeLillo’s novels of the 00s. How does Cosmopolis read as a “representative” DeLillo novel, and what effect might the film adaptation have on the book’s reputation?
  • If Cronenberg’s movie is commercially successful, it is likely that several other DeLillo adaptations which have been in production studio limbo for some time (End Zone and Underworld, for example) may get the green light, a development which would have an enormous impact on the cultural position of DeLillo as an artist, for better or worse. Consider the pros and cons.
  • Consider the relationship between DeLillo’s preoccupation with film and his identity as a novelist.
  • Cosmopolis shares the basic elements of its plot with DeLillo’s only screenplay, Game 6, which became a film in 2005. What is the relationship between Game 6 and Cosmopolis, and how do they reflect the Hollywood influence that underlies DeLillo’s narrative sensibility?

Please send abstracts (300 to 500 words) and a brief bio to Dr. Randy Laist:

DeLillo and Cultural Space

Don DeLillo’s fiction depicts a wide variety of cultural spaces, each of which informs plot, structure, and character in its respective work.  This panel seeks to bring together multiple papers that discuss the ways in which settings and the cultural values associated with them work within the novels, plays, and/or stories of Don DeLillo.

Suggested topics may include but are not limited to:

  • The college towns of White Noise and End Zone
  • The World Trade Center of Players, Underworld, and Falling Man
  • The desert of Running Dog, Underworld, Point Omega, and Love-Lies-Bleeding
  • Nick Shay’s mid-century New York in Underworld, Eric Packer’s late-century New York in Cosmopolis
  • The Americans overseas in The Names and Mao II

Please send abstracts (300 to 500 words) and a brief bio to Dr. Matthew Luter:

DeLillo and the Short Story

The Angel Esmeralda has just appeared and provides a chance to review all DeLillo’s short fiction.  Is the volume merely a collection of disparate fictions, or does it have internal coherence?  How do the stories complement or relate to DeLillo’s longer fiction? How do the stories reveal the consistency of his practice and themes over the decades? How do they expose his evolution as a writer?
Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and brief bio to Dr. Mark Osteen:

DeLillo the Dramatist

DeLillo has written a half dozen plays, from The Engineer of Moonlight to Love-Lies-Bleeding.  Are there particular works or performances that stand out? What production values are important?   Valparaiso, for example, can be loud and humorless or funny  right up until its Dostoevskian finish.  What are the requirements for a successful DeLillo production?  What is the experience of the audience and how does this experience change for different performances of the plays? Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and short bio to Dr. Jennifer Vala:

DeLillo and Cinema

DeLillo stated: “I began to understand the force that movies could have emotionally and intellectually in what I consider the great era of the European films: Godard, Antonioni, Fellini, Bergman . . . Kubrick and Howard Hawks,” all of whom “find mystery in commonplace moments” (Anthony DeCurtis interview).  How are DeLillo’s texts  modeled after the directors that he refers to? What artistic values or methods from such works does he make literary?  Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and brief bio to Dr. Mark Osteen:

Ethics and Subjectivity in DeLillo

Postmodern or modernist ? Romantic or NeoRealist ? How does DeLillo go about creating character and human consciousness in his works? How does he imagine relationships, human individuality and will, integrity and division in the human condition? Do the good and evil choices characters make in their own lives cause them to “make” or “unmake” themselves in terms of accelerating the occasionally tragic events embodied in the fictions? Does falling down the rabbit hole of be moral relativism implied by most postmodern theory prove to be the downfall of would-be heroes in such novels as White Noise, Libra, Mao II and Cosmopolis ? If so, what role does or should ethics play in interpreting these stories allegorically ? Or, as Paul Giaimo’s new book puts it: how might we “appreciate” DeLillo's work by noting its “moral force” ?
Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and short bio to Dr. Paul Giaimo:

Historicizing DeLillo

DeLillo’s work, at least since Running Dog, has always responded to its historical context, even as such a response has been couched in postmodernist literary and philosophical concerns, media critique, political critique, and DeLillo’s other great themes. White Noise, for example, was received in terms of the Bhopal, India disaster, but also responds to the major toxic scares of the 1970s: Love Canal, Three Mile Island. The Names can be placed in tension with Jonestown and the Manson murders, both of which became emblems of a counterculture gone mad. Libra directly invokes the Kennedy assassination, but emerges in the context of the Iran Contra hearings. Underworld engages and anticipates the end of the Cold War and the attendant reshuffling of global power. Proposals are invited which explore how DeLillo’'s fiction helps readers make sense of such histories; how such histories exist in tension with DeLillo’s literary and philosophical projects; how the accounts in his fiction engage or contradict other texts that circulate around such events (media, filmic, legal, political texts); and how his fiction (at least in the case of Libra) becomes part of a historical imaginary. Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and brief bio to Dr. Andrew Strombeck:


DeLillo’s play Love-Lies-Bleeding, portrays the end of the life (as well as the vigorous middle age) of an artist whose son and ex-wife are trying to euthanize him in the name of a “good death.”  We will present a reading of DeLillo’s latest drama, we would like to set up some critical considerations in relation to it. Papers are sought on various themes in the play, as well as discussions about performance or production values. Papers might include considerations of actual productions, characters in time and space, ethical issues, euthanasia and humor, or what DeLillo has called “the mysteries of identity and existence” (Interview with Jody McAuliffe).  Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and short bio to Dr. Jennifer Vala: 

DeLillo’s Artists

DeLillo’s fiction and drama often explore the life and consciousness of the artist. Americana, DeLillo’s first novel, undertakes an exploration of a national zeitgeist through the eyes of a disaffected television executive turned filmmaker. Mao II presents a writer and a photographer who inspire and challenge each other. Underworld is loaded with artists, perhaps as the counterweight to waste and nuclear stockpiling. The Body Artist finds salvation after her husband’s suicide in performance art; Falling Man takes up the same genre, where the artist’s body itself is inscribed in and as the work of art.  Papers sought on DeLillo’s treatment of art and artists.  Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and short bio to Dr. Jacqueline Zubeck:

DeLillo and Mystery

“I think my work as always been informed by mystery” DeLillo explains to Anthony DeCurtis.  In a conversation with Kevin Connolly (1988), DeLillo considers Nicholas Branch’s recognition of a certain “holy moment” in Libra. “It’s a kind of accidental holiness, a randomness so intense and surrounded by such violence that it takes on nearly a sacred inexplicability. And [yet] . . .  it’s so strangely real.” Mark Osteen draws on White Noise to entitle his critical work American Magic and Dread, suggesting another way to approach the mystery which appears in almost all of DeLillo’s novels and plays. What does mystery represent to the author? How, in the words of John McClure, does DeLillo “insistently interrogate[e] secular conceptions of the real”?
Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and brief bio to Dr. Jacqueline Zubeck: 

DeLillo and PEN American Center

Although DeLillo usually declines to get involved publicly in non-writing activities, he has been a steady presence at the PEN American Center – an “amnesty international” type of organization by and for writers. What do these activities suggest about DeLillo’s conception of the writer’s ethical or political role? How do these positions figure in his fiction or plays? What is the role of the writer as a “public intellectual” -- a voice crying in the wilderness?  Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and brief bio to Dr. Jacqueline Zubeck:

DeLillo and Language (DeLillo as Poet)

David Cowart notes that: “DeLillo foregrounds language and the problems of language.  He has an uncanny ear for the mannered, elliptical, non sequitur-ridden rhythms of vernacular conversation” (The Physics of Language 2)DeLillo himself notes: “I don’t think of language in a theoretical way.  I approach it at street level.  That is,  I listen carefully to the way people speak” (interview with Anthony DeCurtis).  Moreover, DeLillo says: “I like to see the words, the sentences, as they take shape.  It’s an aesthetic issue: when I work I have a sculptor’s sense of the shape of the words I’m making,”  (Maria Nadotti Interview).  What is the impact of the visual image, the way that the words strike the reader’s eye, as it were?  Remember Klara Sax and  the radiator paint which was “smeared, no schmeered” onto a surface, the word itself elongated in order to show the effect of the medium itself (Underworld).   Is DeLillo a poet?  How does the music of language and its visual impact inform his work?  Please send a title, abstract (300-500 words), and brief bio to Dr. Jacqueline Zubeck:

DeLillo’s Point Omega: “The whole point of nothing happening.” Between narration and non-narration

DeLillo saw in the conceptual video art piece by Douglas Gordon, 24-Hour Psycho, a process of “unstuffing,” “the 24-hour version unstuffs the original—content and suspense are drained away” (interview with DePietro). The term is a key word for understanding DeLillo’s latest novel, Point Omega. Its conciseness suggests that a process of unstuffing is equally at stake: a very limited number of characters, a scant characterization, a thin story on the brink of plotlessness bracketed by two mysterious pieces of writing emphasizing anonymity. The novel’s narrative threatens to disrupt itself, oscillating between narration and non-narration, a process of deceleration verging on a complete halt. The video itself encroaches upon the thin line of what is narratable and what is not. What is thus the function of 24-Hour Psycho in the novel? Is the novel only its literary pendant to mimic that process of unstuffing? Or does the novel in its own specific way of narrating manage to do something that the video doesn’t?

Suggested topics may include but are not limited to:

  • Time: how is the question of time rendered ? Effects of slowing down of the narrative ; references to Chardin,
  • Event, uneventfulness
  • Literary references: haiku form, Ezra Pound, Zukofsky, Rilke
  • Narrativity and loss, Jessie’s disappearance
  • Narrative and the unnarratable “The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever” (PO 17, 34)
  • Structure of the novel, articulation of prologue/epilogue and the rest of the novel
  • Narrative and Finley's film, narrative and Douglas's video
  • Parallel with other novels

Please send abstracts (300 to 500 words) and a brief bio to Karim Daanoune:

Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society. 


Conference Sessions & Meetings

"Riddled with Epiphanies": DeLillo, New York, April 20-21, 2012.
College of Mount Saint Vincent, Riverdale (Bronx) New York.

Sponsored by the Don DeLillo Society. 

New and Forthcoming Publications






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